Barry Died Last Night
Barry died last night, and nobody much cares.
When I was last with him at St. Michael's, he said,
"My family don't come anymore.
They think they'll get it by breathing the same air."
Barry loved music and the smells and bells of my religion.
Before his final visit to the hospital, I took him to church
occasionally, but he stayed away most of the time,
saying it made him feel guilty.
"A third of the parish is gay; several on the vestry are gay.
Why on earth do they make you feel guilty?!" I asked.
"It's not them!" he told me, shocked that I had misunderstood;
it's me; it's God; it's the way I was brought up....
"In my heart of hearts I believe that God hates me. He has to.
I don't live the way I was taught to live. My parents hate me.
Society hates me. When I was young I tried every way possible
to live right, but I'm me; I'm gay. And I'm scared of God."
No matter how good the meal, whenever I drove him home,
he would always bring the conversation back to God.
We both realized we were talking about a different God.
He seemed to like my god more than his, but wasn't convinced.
For neither of us was "convincing" the issue.
Speaking candidly was. He testified to his experience and I to mine.
I am an atheist to the God Barry feared:
I believe that kind of God is a fraud and not worth my belief.
If that God turns out to be real, let the sucker burn me.
I will not yield. I have no use for patriarchs. None whatsoever.
But the God I believe in scares me too. Knows all secrets.
Is completely righteous and just and patient and compassionate
and vulnerable..... So I understand awe all too well.
I've got more awe than any God worthy of the identity
would ever be comfortable receiving.
At St. Michael's the last time we were together, Barry asked me,
"Do you believe in angels?" "I've heard them," I said
"Really?!" His fever was 104 and had been at least 102
for eight days; but he got very excited.
"I don't talk about it, though," I said awkwardly,
"at least I haven't talked about it
to more than to two or three people,
and as much as I write, I doubt
that I will ever write about it.
When other people talk about things like that,
they spook me; I don't want to be a spook.
Some people talk about seeing angels
as if to say they're better than anyone else.
The fact that the angels have come (and only a few times,
many years ago, so far as I know or remember)
says little about me, but much about God...."
"Angels have come to see me several times
here at St. Michael's," Barry interrupted, as if to confirm,
that it was safe for the first time to tell someone.
"One sat right there on the edge of the bed this morning,
but he did not say a word."
We sat silent for several minutes.
"Barry, they wouldn't come if God hated you," I said.
If Barry heard, he did not say so.
I think he had drifted off.
His eyes lit up when we kissed goodbye though.
Now his family has whisked away his body
for a private funeral.
Tonight I don't give a tinker's malediction
about what straits think about us and our visitors.
They'll let the whole world die before they notice
or care or understand.
Goodbye again, Barry. My close friend's nephew
went into the hospital today. Looks like pneumonia,
but may be tuberculosis instead. That will take longer
and be more painful. I'll give your kiss to him,
and to his lover, who has tested positive too.
Good night, sweet angel. Goodnight. Goodnight.